Game developer Telltale Games, best known for their The Walking Dead series of episodic games, recently laid off 225 of their 250 employees, leaving 25 employees currently to finish Minecraft: Story Mode before, basically, shutting down.
Here, have their official statement:
That’s nice. Except the employees who were laid off have a bit of a difference of opinion here.
Apparently, those who were laid off were just told about it last week. On the day they were being laid off. No warning, just pack your bags, you’re outta here. They were also apparently hiring people as late as a week before the layoffs, otherwise known as a fucking stupid thing to do.
Oh, there’s also the fact that they learned, during the meeting where they were being fired, that they wouldn’t get severance pay, so they better go ahead and apply for unemployment! This is also, apparently, on top of the unpaid overtime (or “crunch”) that they were expected to work because the company constantly bit off more than they could chew by buying up every license they could get their hands on.
Oh, but don’t worry, they’re looking for other avenues to finish The Walking Dead: The Final Season!
Which I’m sure is super comforting to the 225 people who have currently found themselves without work.
It’s not all bad, however. A number of game developers have been reaching out to former employees to try and offer them jobs using the hashtag #TelltaleJobs on Twitter. There’s one problem with that, however: the issues that helped cause TTG’s downfall (crunch, treating employees like garbage, etc) are endemic to the tech industry. So even if they get a job with another big developer, they’ll have to face the same problems.
One of the companies I saw in the hashtag was Electronic Arts (specifically EA Dice). Know what one of the things EA is known for? Buying up game studios and then closing them down in a few years.
And you know, of course, that certain subsets of the “gamer” population have managed to make this even worse by being entitled little shitheads. Because of course there would be tweets demanding that the laid-off developers finish The Walking Dead for free. Which 1) they can’t, because it’s a licensed property that they don’t hold the license for and 2) no. Not to mention the particularly virulent types insisting the shut down was caused by TTG’s women employees. (Warning: the screenshot in that tweet contains a rather vile rape threat) Because people are the fucking worst.
I really, really do hope that the workers in this case do find some recourse. I do know that a class action lawsuit against the company has been filed, alleging that TTG had violated California labor law by not providing adequate notice about the planned layoffs.
Really, though, I think that the only way to prevent things like this from happening in the future is for the games industry (and really the tech industry in general) to unionize. I think every industry should unionize, actually.
Or we could try not living in a late-capitalist hellscape. But, you know, baby steps.